There was once a time when I would splurge on a hardback book, plant myself on a sofa or a big comfy chair and read from dawn to dusk. I’d barely eat and when I did, I’d read while eating. I devour fiction as if I bought a ticket from Fandango: previews to credits. Cover to cover. I am a voracious reader, especially of suspense and fantasy fiction. I read the last Harry Potter book in a fraction of a day. I read The Witching Hour in a weekend. The subsequent Anne Rice novels fell similar fates. I read Pat Conroy’s last novel The South of Broad in a weekend. And any Conroy delegate knows his writing is dense, embellished and packed full of descriptives. The dialogue is sparse. It’s like speed reading a Seurat painting.
I now struggle with the perception that sitting and JUST reading is an idle and wasteful endeavor. There is so much else to do, that sitting and reading for days is incomprehensible. My solution is to listen to audio-books of those books I anticipate will be immersive and engrossing. I listen and do other things. I clean the house or cook or declutter or sew. Yesterday, I completed the randomly designed back panel for one of the quilts I am working on while listening to the last book in the Karen Marie Moning Fever series, books about Faerie and the Unseely King. It is the mental equivalent of eating Cheese Puffs…..but I LOVE Cheese Puffs and their bright orange cheese puff dust coating and discoloring my fingertips. I am unabashedly and unapologetically enamored with this genre of fiction. I loved the Terry Goodkind books about the woodsman Richard and Kahlan. I read the entire thirteen book series between Christmas and Easter three years ago. I’d go to the Waldenbooks and buy four of the paperbacks at a time, plow through one, toss it over my shoulder and crack the spine on the next. I am the reading equivalent of a chain smoker.
I probably should retrain myself to linger and be idle with an actual book. I should probably recognize the absurdity of my guilt and return to the slower, genuine act of reading. And I admit, reading and listening alter the story. Rather, listening alters my experience of the story. Hearing a story imprints in my brain and processes like a movie; I see the book. My reaction to the story involves greater empathy for the characters. I can read nearly as fast. In fact, I think I could have read these five Moning novels quicker than their unabridged audio dopplegangers. But listening to words flows through a different part of my brain.
Plus, I sewed an entire quilt yesterday freehand….without a pattern….the design came out of my head. I like the front, because I recreated the picture on the pattern. I like the back just as much because I transferred the image inside my mind into fabric. And I managed to do all that while listening to a story about the travails and escapades Mac Lane O’Connor & Jericho Barrons.
The downside of this type of binge reading is the inevitable sense of disappointment that you’ve devoured everything and the story is over.